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Absence of Virat Kohli and Shami gives us advantage: Justin Langer



Absence of India skipper Virat Kohli and pace bowler Mohammed Shami will give advantage to Australia, who will look score over 400 in first innings to take charge of the Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, says Australia head coach Justin Langer.

The second Test, known as the Boxing Day Test, starts Saturday and India have fond memories from the last time when they won it on a flat batting wicket to go 1-0 up in the four-match series in 2018/19.

“Of course, no matter what sport you play, if you take two of your stars out,” said Langer on Thursday in reply to a question from media if Kohli and Shami’s absence gives the hosts advantage.

“Virat Kohli is one of the all-time great players. I think Shami is a real glue for the Indian bowling attack because he is so miserly. He is very skillful. Of course, it gives us an advantage…But we need to keep working hard and follow the processes that we have been following for some time. We know we have to start strongly on Day 1. We know we have to keep the pressure on (Ajinkya) Rahane if he is the new captain for India. So the processes don’t change. Whenever you take the best players out of any cricket team, of course that weakens them. That is the reality. Of course, it gives us an advantage,” he added.

The Aussies were on the back-foot for the first two days in last week’s first Test at the Adelaide Oval as they conceded a 53-run first innings lead. The lead brought back memories of the first Test in Adelaide in the 2018-19 series when India had got an even lesser, a 15-run lead and then went on to win it. This time though, the Aussie bowling responded and dismissed India for just 36, their lowest-ever Test total.

The head coach acknowledged the bowling effort but said they are doing some work on their batting and fielding. “Bit of fielding work, bit of batting work,” he said on the work being done at practice ahead of the second Test.

“I said on the morning of Day 3 before that extraordinary bowling show, I said to the guys, let us not make mistakes. This is proper Test match cricket. India had the better of us on the first two days. We are in real arm-wrestle of a Test match. It was amazing how things turned around. We know how good team India is. We know how we have to keep improving. I said last year if we have to become a great team we need to keep winning after winning. Really good teams keep winning and winning. It is an area that we have addressed. We have start well on Boxing Day morning. We know India will start well as we saw in first two days in Adelaide,” Langer said.

In 2018, India batsmen had exhausted the Aussie bowlers by batting for 169.4 overs while scoring just 443/7 in the Boxing Day Test. But Langer said the hosts are a different team this time around.

“I think we are a very different team. We have come a long way in two years. We are now playing very good cricket. We’ve got confidence. I remember losing the toss at MCG on a very flat wicket (in 2018). That certainly took some of the wind out of our sails. That’s for sure. We are a very different team. We know that in first innings in Australia, we are looking to score 400 in first innings. There is no surprise there. That is what we have based our Test cricket on for years. I said we have got areas we can improve. We play our best cricket when we are scoring big first innings totals. That’s what we aspire to and that’s what we aspiring to in this game as well,” the 50-year-old said.

“I empathise with my opposition but it is none of my business…if India are feeling stressed I am glad they are and not us over Christmas,” he added.


Confused by moaning and groaning: Vivian Richards on pitch debate




Former West Indies captain and batting legend Vivian Richards threw his support behind the spin-friendly conditions that were on offer during the second and third Test between India and England in Chennai and Ahmedabad, respectively.

The match, which was the only day-night Test in the series, got over in less than two days with only two out of the 30 wickets that fell during the match going to fast bowlers.

Earlier, England lost the second Test in Chennai by 317 runs. A number of former players said that pitches that were dished out for both matches were not suitable for Test cricket.

“I’ve been asked questions recently about the Test match that was played in India the second and third Test match against England. And I am a little confused about the question really because there seems to be a lot of moaning and groaning about the wicket that they were playing on,” said Richards in a video posted on his Facebook page.

Richards said that playing on spin-friendly conditions is only the “other side” of Test cricket.

“I just felt that the ones who are moaning, in my opinion, should realise that there are times that you’re going to get a seaming track, a ball that is basically jumping off a good length and everyone thinks that’s a problem for batters. There are times batters sometimes cope with that,” Richards said.

“But now you’ve seen the other side, and this is why I think it was given the name Test match cricket, because of the test of the mind and will and everything else that goes with it when you’re competing.

“And the complaints have been that the wicket is spinning too much and all that sorts of stuff. This is another side of the coin guys.

“People seem to forget that if you’re going to India, you should expect that. You are going to spin land. You should basically prepare yourself to know what you’re going to encounter,” he further said.

England wicketkeeper-batsman Ben Foakes on Sunday said that the visitors were expecting more of the same in the fourth and final Test that would be played at the same venue from March 4.

Richards said that England should utilise the time they have got between the third and fourth Tests to prepare for the conditions.

“Rather than the moaning and groaning, especially just recently how quickly that Test match was over. It gives England an opportunity and a chance to assess things, to believe that for some reason the wicket that they’re going to encounter in the fourth Test is going to be the same. If I was India or I had anything to do with the preparations of the wicket, I would bring in very much the same (sic),” Richards added.

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Shahid Afridi adds to age confusion, says he is turning 44




Former Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi while thanking his fans on Monday for their birthday wishes, said in his tweet that he is turning 44 this year, despite saying earlier in his autobiography that he was born in 1975.

“Thank you very much for all the lovely birthday wishes – 44 today! My family and my fans are my biggest assets. Really enjoying my stint with Multan and hope to produce match winning performances for all MS (Multan Sultans) fans,” tweeted Afridi.

In his autobiography “Game Changer”, which was released in April 2019, Afridi had said that he was born in 1975 as opposed to 1980 which is what was written in the official records. It meant that he was above “19” when he hit a record 37-ball century against Sri Lanka in 1996 and not 16, which is what his official age was. However, he had confused fans then as well as he would have been at least 20 in 1996 if he was born in 1975.

“For the record, I was 19, and not just 16 like they claim. I was born in 1975. So, yes, the authorities stated my age incorrectly,” Afridi said in his autobiography.

A few on social media pointed out the discrepancy. “The Man ! The Myth ! The Legend ! …. a 16 yr old Afridi scoring the fastest centuryyyyy……… today turns 44, according to his book he is 46 and Wikipedia says 41 , happy birthday lala,” said a tweet from one fan.

“44? You sure Lala? HBD! (You still don’t exist to me in the universe outside cricket .. but absolutely love you on the field!),” said another.

“We can now officially change Shahid Afridi’s DOB to 1 Mar 1977 from 1 Mar 1980. This means Afghanistan’s Usman Ghani (17y-242d) is now the youngest to score an ODI 100 (in July 2014). Afridi in Oct 1996 was 19y-217d (& not 16y-217d) when he made the famous 37-ball 100 at Nairobi,” tweeted cricket statistician Mohandas Menon.

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Get Ravichandran Ashwin back in India ODI squad: Brad Hogg




Former Australia spinner Brad Hogg on Monday said that India should select Ravichandran Ashwin for their upcoming ODI series against England. Hogg said in a tweet that the 34-year-old off-spinner adds depth to the batting lineup apart from being a wicket-taking option.

“@ibrahim_3337 I think it is a great option, gives the batting line up extra depth allowing the top order to be more aggressive at the top and he is a wicket taking option with the ball, as well as economical. Get him back in. #INDvENG #Cricket,” Hogg tweeted in reply to a fan asking if India should get Ashwin back into the ODI squad.

Although he remains an integral part of the Indian Test team and is a regular in the Indian Premier League, Ashwin has been out of India’s limited overs sides since July 2017. His last ODI and T20I appearances for India came during their 2017 tour of West Indies. Ashwin has 150 wickets to his name in 111 ODI matches and 52 wickets in 46 T20Is.

Ashwin became the fourth Indian to take 400 Test wickets during their 10-wicket win over England in the third Test in Ahmedabad in February. Before that, he took eight wickets and scored a century in the second Test in Chennai. Ashwin also played an integral role with bat and ball in India’s 2-1 Test series win over Australia in January.

The fourth and final Test between India and England is scheduled to start on March 4 after which the two teams will face each other in five T20I matches between March 12 and March 20 in Ahmedabad. They then play a three-match ODI series between March 23 and 28 in Pune.

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